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Sunday Chi Chi Dango

In Hawaii, you can find chi chi dango at most grocery stores, farmers markets, and specialty shops (like Two Ladies Kitchen, article here, in Hilo, Hawaii). Chi chi dango is a type of mochi (sweet rice cake) made with sweet rice flour, sugar, coconut milk, vanilla, coloring, and your choice of flavor. Typical chi chi dango is made with red food coloring (I'm sure you could use concentrated beet juice or something similar for the usual pink coloring, but I haven't tried it yet) to create a lovely pink color and it has a very mild, creamy, sweet flavor thanks to the coconut milk. Other flavors like liliko'i, mango, and guava are also popular, and delicious! Liliko'i is my favorite, but our vines are not producing any fruit right now and I'm not running to the grocery store for a single ingredient. Sorry, not sorry.

Chi chi dango is really easy to make and doesn't need a lot of fussing with since it's basically mixing, baking, and cutting. I prefer the baking method (a lot of mochi recipes use the microwave as a cooking source) since I'm a bit of weirdo and don't have a microwave. I'm sure I'm in the microwave-less minority, but my kitchen is small with limited counter space and there is no room for a bulky microwave (and I really hate clutter on the counter. Yes, I'm like that).

Ingredients & Directions for Chi Chi Dango

-1 box of mochiko (sweet rice flour), 16 oz

-1 1/2 c sugar (you may use up to 2 c for a sweeter taste)

-1 t baking powder

-1 c water

-1 t vanilla

-1 can coconut milk (15 oz, any brand, but not "lite")

-4-6 drops red food color (for pink mochi)

-1/2 c potato or corn starch


Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9 x 13 baking dish with your choice of mild oil (canola is good).

Sift mochiko, sugar, and baking powder in a bowl; sifting is important as it will take care of any lumps in the flour or baking powder (it's no fun to bite into one of those bad boy lumps), mix well. In a separate bowl, mix together water, vanilla, coconut milk, and food color. Mix liquid ingredients until the red color is fully incorporated and you have your desired pink color. More drops of red color will equal a deeper pink. It's up to you how far you want to take it; you'll probably want to avoid pepto territory (although, looking at mine, I'm pretty close).

Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix well, making sure no dry lumps of flour remain. You can see I did a poor job of mixing all my food coloring in the picture, but I gave it a few extra whisks and it was fine. So don't despair if you are a poor mixer like I am!

Pour mixture into greased pan, cover tightly with foil, and bake for 1 hour. The edges may get hard and crusty when you pull the pan out of the oven, but you can always trim them off (or eat them as quick, chewy snacks!). The chi chi dango should be firm, but still moist and sticky. Let cool completely.

Run a plastic knife (the chi chi dango will stick to everything else) around the edges of the pan, loosening it enough so that you can turn it out onto a work area floured with a good dusting of the corn or potato starch. It can be tricky turning it out, so you may need to coax it out with your knife or spatula. Alternatively, you can also cut squares in in the pan, but this can be a pretty sticky undertaking. Using the plastic knife, cut into small squares. Give each square a small dusting of corn or potato starch, so that it is no longer sticky to the touch. Chi chi dango can be stored in an airtight container (using wax or parchment paper to separate layers) for a day or two, although it's best eaten the same day it is made. Do not store in the fridge or you will end up with chi chi dango bricks.

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